Quantcast

Search form

Donate Today

The Director Chose Well in PNB's Latest Performance

March 22, 2016

In Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performance Director’s Choice, the company dancers have the chance to show off their musicality and modern technique in three adventurous pieces brilliantly selected by Artistic Director Peter Boal. 

While the ballets chosen for this spring performance span the spectrum of music and dance genre, each is driven by a rhythm that can be felt through the dancers’ bodies even when the orchestra is silent. 

The first piece, appropriately titled Rush, made its premiere with PNB in November of 2002. Set to Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu’s dissonant Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Tympani, Paul Gibson’s choreography accents each staccato note with angular, tilted movement, creating powerful lines and ambitious allegros. The dancers barely have time to finish each step before moving on to the next. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloists Benjamin Griffiths and Leta Biasucci with company dancers in Paul Gibson’s Rush, which PNB is presenting as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 18 – 27, 2016. Photo © Angela Sterling.

But the piece is not always in a hurry, especially when the two leads take the stage for a pas de deux. Resplendent in gold, in contrast to the corps’ crimson, the two principals create those dynamic lines at a slower pace, over and around each other, adding a depth to the plotless ballet complemented by the ominous score. 

The extremely technical Rush is followed by the modern Little mortal jump, originally created by Alejandro Cerrudo for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and making its PNB premiere this season. The piece makes use of light, smoke and revolving wooden boxes, elements which, combined with the masterful choreography and varied playlist of music, result in a mysterious and cinematic experience. It separates itself from the ballets that bookend it with flexed feet, bent knees and captivating tension — at one point created by velcroed suits — which molds into swinging, circular movement initiated from each dancer’s core. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Leah Merchant in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump, which PNB is presenting as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 18 – 27, 2016. Photo © Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Price Suddarth in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump, which PNB is presenting as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 18 – 27, 2016. Photo © Angela Sterling

It starts humorously, with a single dancer bolting down the aisle of the theater while the audience is still settling in from intermission. As the dance goes on, the music and the movement transform from couquettish to an almost sinister tone as the dancers alternatively emerge from and hide within the shadowed depths of the set. 

The different pairs that form from the cast of ten play off each other; reaching out to one another; tripping, falling and rolling over each other’s bodies in modern variations that move fluidly from one form to the next. The most memorable moment of the night comes when a single ray of light illuminates a haze of smoke and bathes the couple onstage as they attempt to reach its source, slowing their motion without sacrificing the ciruclar, flowing motif of the choreography. They fail in their mission, intead backing into the dim, murky recesses of the stage together as the platforms spin and all the dancers vanish into thin air, bringing the audience to its feet in a standing ovation. 

The evening closes with the PNB premiere of Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit, originally staged for New York City Ballet in seven parts to Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit. Each section references a year of the Chinese zodiac, and the Oriental influence on the music can be felt throughout. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit, which PNB is presenting as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 18 – 27, 2016. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Peck is known for his creative, geometric formations and inventive choreography, which ripples through every dancer in the ballet. No one is ever truly still, and at some points it is difficult to decide whom to watch. The leads and the corps slide, hop and slice through the air, sometimes celebratory, and sometimes scared like a rabbit caught in a trap. After the surreality of Little mortal jump, this playful piece is a light-hearted and buoyant way to finish a trimumphant addition to PNB’s repertoire. 

Director’s Choice runs through Sunday, March 27. For more information and to buy tickets, visit pnb.org

 

Feature Photo: Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lesley Rausch (center) with company dancers in Paul Gibson’s Rush, which PNB is presenting as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 18 – 27, 2016. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Morgan McMurray

Morgan McMurray is a writer and editor based in Seattle. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies.

Read more of her work on her personal blog and at Law Street Media.

More stories by Morgan McMurray

There are 0 comments

Read Comments Hide Comments

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <xmp><em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd></xmp>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
As a public media organization, KCTS 9 is committed to presenting a diversity of voices and perspectives through the stories we produce. We invite our readers to participate in an active and respectful discourse through our comments feature. All comments are moderated before posting to our website; if we deem a comment to be inappropriate and/or threatening, it will not be published.